While everyone enjoys riding their motorcycle, do we ever give a thought to the drive type we are using and why? We guess not. That is why this article to explain benefits and disadvantages of each drive type.

There are 3 drive types for motorcycles:

  1. Chain Drive
  2. Belt Drive
  3. Shaft Drive

Now let’s look at each drive type in details.

1. Chain Drive:

Chain Drive

Chain drives are the most commonly found drive type for motorcycles. Chain drive comprises of a simple chain of linkages connecting two sprockets. The front sprocket is connected to the gearbox output shaft. It is the driving sprocket and the one at the rear wheel is the driven sprocket. Both these sprockets are connected through a chain, which also comes in a variety of designs. 


  • One of the disadvantages of chain drive is that it requires frequent lubrication (every 500-700km).
  • Chain Drive systems have lower life as compared to other two drive systems.


  • Chain and sprockets are the most efficient at transmitting power, with only 1 – 4 % transmission loss. That’s significantly less than belt drives & shaft drives.
  • Chain drives are very simple in their functioning and are very cost effective to run and replace. This is why this chain type is most commonly used.

2. Belt Drive:

Belt Drive

Belt drives are mostly seen on cruisers and scooters. Belt Drive system comprises of a driving pulley on the gearbox output shaft and a driven pulley at the wheel. The two pulleys are connected by a belt which has teeth or grooves on the inner side that match the grooves on the outer side of the pulleys.  

The belt is made up of reinforced rubber with a strong synthetic material making the belt durable. Modern drive belts are strengthened with steel wires inside and kevlar coating outside. These belt drive systems can last really long. You can expect a well maintained belt drive on a motorcycle to last 1,00,000 km or even more.  


  • Not easy to replace belt or pullies and normally require removing the swingarm.
  • Belt drives are also prone to stretching or slippage on high powered motorcycles, especially when there’s a sudden burst of torque, which can lead to a power loss of around 11 per cent.


  • Belt Drive makes less noise, is less jerky and is smoother to run.
  • It doesn’t need periodic maintenance as well.
  • Long Life.

3. Shaft Drive:

Shaft Drive

Shaft drive systems are the most expensive of the three systems. They are however, the sturdiest of the three. Shaft drives are very smooth and hardly ever need any maintenance. Drive shafts often last the life of a motorcycle without requiring any servicing or maintenance whatsoever.  

This system, as the name suggests, comprises of a shaft that’s connected to the gearbox output shaft via a universal joint. At the other end, the shaft is connected to the rear wheel hub via a spiral bevel gear.  This entire drive system is bathed in oil for lubrication and sealed to protect it from any external elements, which makes it totally maintenance free.

Because of high cost of production and more weight, shaft drive systems are used only in bigger, more expensive motorcycles.


  • Shaft drives have high initial cost so are used only on top end motorcycles.
  • Most inefficient of the three systems with 20-25% power loss.
  • Heaviest of all 3 types of drive systems.
  • Really difficult and expensive to repair.


  • Most drive shaft systems will last the whole life of motorcycle without requiring any servicing or maintenance
  • Drive shaft system can handle large amounts of torque / power easily.
  • Almost noiseless.

Now that you know about these drive trains, let us know which one you would prefer and why.

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